Monday, August 25, 2014


"Did you buy that yogurt locally?" asked my neighbor, who had come over as we were finishing supper. I'd recently introduced yogurt to Hadassah, and she was loving it. "Yes..." I answered. "You shouldn't," she replied, "as it's probably not stored at the right temperature." Later that week a friend a church corroborated with "Don't drink the milk - they don't produce it well here."

So we added those things to the long list of things we buy imported from an online, and yes, higher priced supplier.

The water? We finally got a Berkey water filter, and started putting water from the tap in it. But we soon weren't wanting to drink the water, as it tasted funny, and it often smells pretty bad, especially in the evenings as I'm washing dishes. Then I ran across reports that in 2013, over 13,000 pig carcasses, some of them testing positive for swine flu, had been pulled out of the Huangpu River, which supplies the water to Shanghai. That made us want to drink water even less. So we now have a longer process, filling jugs of water from what's supposed to be a pretty good source (when we moved in, friends told us "You can drink this water - but it's better to boil it"), paying just 1.5 kuai instead of 18 kuai a day for bottled water (the equivalent of 25 cents instead of 3 dollars), carrying it back and running it through our water filter for extra safety.

Fruit and veggies? It's hard to know for sure. I thought I was good peeling everything we bought locally, but news articles report high high HIGH use of pesticides in China. How do you know for sure what's safe, and what has stuff that's seeped in below the skin? My dad reminds me that "the three most important things about poisons is: dose, dose and dose" so what we're getting probably isn't horrible, but still... it doesn't leave you too assured about the things you're trying to eat to be "healthy."

We knew the air quality was a risk when moving here. Thankfully, recently it hasn't been horrible - it's just at "unhealthy for sensitive groups" on the air quality index most days, which if that sounds bad, there's still 3 more levels of "unhealthy" to go. Most days I don't notice it, but we're not looking forward to the winter, when we hear it's way worse. We have one air purifier, and should probably buy more...

Then today we read about lead poisoning. How it's extremely common in China, as their paint isn't regulated, it's likely in the water, electronics, plastics, soil, and above all in the air all around us and the dust that settles on the floor. How it's extremely toxic, especially for kids, and more of a danger to those crawlers who are always at floor level and putting things in their mouth. The recommendation is to at least damp mop all floors every day - and I cringe, wondering how I can add one more thing to the list that never seems to get done. Then there's apartment and paint testing to consider (costing more money, of course) and the recommendation to test your child's blood every few months. But we just had a check-up for Hadassah and it took all afternoon to get there and back...

It's hard. Life here sometimes seems completely overwhelming. Yesterday I tried again to mail a letter, having researched where to go on the university campus, finding a map of their shuttle bus system in English (since their campus is huge - walking there would take too long) and finding online the times it ran. But when I got there, it wasn't there. After waiting for 10 minutes, I thankfully found an English speaker in their gift shop, who told me the next bus would leave at 4:30 PM - an hour from then, and the time the post office was said to close. I guess it was the month that classes aren't going on, so maybe the bus wasn't running? I was tempted to just try to walk it, but with no working phone (yes, it randomly stopped working that morning... and Ryan's hadn't been working for a few weeks) it didn't seem wise.

We have the same amount of time everyone else does: 24 hours. We choose to try to get enough sleep, eat as well as we can (which means cooking each meal at home from scratch), spend time with the Lord, and try for time as a family and a couple. Laundry and cleaning and cooking fill so much time already, that when things take hours that used to take a few minutes (mailing a letter? Just put a stamp on it and clip it outside the door on our mailbox, or at most drive 5 minutes to the post office)... it's very hard.

This post sounds depressing, which isn't where I want to leave it. We're fighting for joy, and life is sweet. We are blessed with each other, with developing relationships here, and with the sweetest little almost-10-month-old that fills our home with giggles. And those things, like needing to walk to mail a letter, can be a blessing in disguise as it gives time to get exercise and enjoy the world God's made - as long as you don't think too much about what's in the air. ;)

Hadassah is learning and experiencing so many new things, sucking on her toothbrush after mommy brushes her teeth each night is her current most favorite thing ever, and we play "ring around the rosy" and giggle as we all fall down after supper most nights. The things that take more time (like filling jugs of water) even bring her joy, as she loves to press the buttons to start and stop the water for me. She's getting experiences she never would have had in the US. But as parents, we also want to be wise about what we're exposing our precious little one to.

There are no conclusions yet. We're still researching, trying to weigh options, see what's worth the money and time, and look to the Lord. We know God is in control, that He has His purposes, that coming here wasn't a mistake in His grand scheme. That even if we have lasting adverse effects, He can work through those. But we're praying we don't. We appreciate your prayers. And while you're at it, please pray for wisdom for us, to know what's really important, and to take one step at a time instead of just sitting down overwhelmed.

Now excuse me while I go and damp mop our floors...


  1. This is Helen-
    I never knew China was so toxic. Still, things could be worse....
    God works all things for good, even if we can't understand them right now. One day we shall.

  2. I am so thankful that you are writing what is truly on your heart and mind and not trying to hide the hard things that your are experiencing.
    Donna Jo

  3. Is there anything we can send to you from the States that would be helpful?
    Jennifer Gay

    1. Jennifer - good to hear from you! And nothing I can think of, but thanks for offering. My dad is ordering a kit to test the dust in our house for lead and sending it with Ryan's parents who come to visit in October, so that will hopefully help us know if we should be more worried or not.

  4. Wow... that's overwhelming just reading about it! You mastered time management in the States, so I can only imagine how frustrating it is to get less done each day. And then the health risks... oh my goodness. Thanks for letting us know specifics so that we know how to pray. Love you guys! -Natalie

  5. I'm so glad to hear that Ryan's parents are coming for a visit in Oct. Wonderful for all of you to have that to look forward to! -- Donna Jo